How do you know which direction to walk for the train station when you can’t even read the language on the street signs!? How are you supposed to get to that big palace outside of the city when it doesn’t seem that the metro station runs there? Also, how do you navigate the metro station? How exactly are you going to get to your hotel? These are questions that will no doubt be at the front of your mind as soon as you make it through customs. Save yourself the headache and panic and follow this guide before you claim your baggage.
The larger cities like Istanbul and Ankara have the luxury of a public metro station that helps transport visitors and locals alike form one end of the town to the other. This will likely be your most convenient and budget-friendly option during your stay. If you are an experienced traveller and feel confident using metro systems, you can save a few more dollars by taking the metro from the train station to your hotel.
However, if this is your first time travelling out of the country or if you just want to relax after a long flight, a taxi will be a more convenient, hassle-free choice. In Istanbul, the M1A train visits the Atatürk Airport and the Otogar bus station. When arriving at any metro station, if you plan on exploring the city for at least a day or two, grab a metro pass or reusable card. You will usually get a discounted price for using these. Also, check with your hotel, they may have a special discount program for using the metro system.
Most metro lines will be underground rails that really take the fun out of touring the city. After all, dark tunnels don’t tell you much about the bustling city above your head. If you are constantly headed underground to go to a new sight, you miss all that is in between. The city bus is an excellent option for exploring the city and checking out local culture and it is usually the most budget-friendly option.
In Istanbul, there are two sectors of buses, one public and one private. The privately owned bus line is blue-green with yellow non-electric designation signs. The city bus, however, has received a face lift so you can no longer designate it solely by the old blue-red ones. They now come on a variety of colors like all green, and the red double decker ones. The double decker ones will be perfect for taking pictures and getting the full view of the city while travelling. Your hotel should have a map of the bus line. Many bus lines will be specific to the “tourist attractions” so that there is minimal confusion. If you are still nervous, however, opt for a hop-on, hop-off guided bus tour. They come with English-speaking tour guides and are your best bet for seeing all of the well-known attractions in the city.
In much of Europe, people don’t even leave their house for the nightclubs until 11 or 12 at night, which makes for a very late evening. Unfortunately, in much of Turkey, the public transportation systems are not typically running until the wee hours of the morning.
So, what should you do if you find yourself stranded in city centre at 4 am? Grab a Dolmus. These yellow minivans are cheaper than a taxi and are like the other well-known public transportation methods in that they follow a prescribed route. The only difference is a Dolmus is the only one that run all night long. Be aware though, you could be waiting a while if you are one of the first in the van, as they wait until they are filled to depart. Also, double check with your driver to be extra sure your Dolmus is going where you need it to go.
Bicycle that is! What better way to explore the city than by bike? All you have to pack is a map to get yourself around the city. It gives you the freedom of stopping whenever and wherever you want to take pictures, check out an attraction, or have lunch. While in Istanbul check out Istanbul On Bike. In other cities, ask your concierge where to rent one or ask where the tourist center is. The tourist center will always be able to assist you in finding a bike rental company.
Whether by bus, bike, Dolmus or metro, use the tips listed above to get around Turkey quickly, efficiently, and without making it exceedingly obvious that you are figuring it out as you go. Protect yourself from potential problems with travel insurance from Cover-More Australia.
Image courtesy of Flickr user LAZLO ILYES